Importance of Online Ads Placement
Billions of the world’s population are now online. If your company plans to turn to online ads to draw customers, ads placement is an important consideration.
A new report from Chief Marketing Officer Council (CMO) and Dow Jones showed that nearly half of consumers stated they would have second thoughts about purchasing from a company or would boycott products and services if they encountered company's ads within or alongside objectionable digital content.
The CMO and Dow Jones report also showed that nearly half of brand advertisers report problems with where and how digital ads are viewed. A quarter of the CMO and Dow Jones survey respondents stated that they’ve specific examples where their digital ads were shown within or alongside offensive or compromising content.
The new CMO and Dow Jones report shows the risks associated with programmatic advertising.
"Our member research shows that clients are going to be putting more pressure on their advertising and media-buying partners to provide greater due diligence, control and monitoring when it comes to ensuring ad placement efficacy through automated platforms," Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council, said. "They want to see greater ad spend effectiveness and better attribution from a performance measurement standpoint. They will also likely dictate which channels are pre-approved and shift spend to those that are most trusted and proven."
What is Programmatic Advertising
Programmatic advertising is a billion-dollar market. According to Zenith Media, programmatic advertising grew from $5 billion in 2012 to $39 billion in 2016, at an average rate of 71% per year. Zenith projected this market to slow down in the coming years as “it consolidates its dominance of the display market”. The programmatic advertising market is projected by Zenith to grow at an average of 28% a year from 2017 to 2018 – hitting $64 billion by 2018.
This advertising model was first promoted as a means to reach target audiences as cheaply as possible, without taking into consideration the quality of the sites in which the ads appeared.
Programmatic advertising refers to the automation of online advertising, where a software program is responsible for picking where the ads run. Before this automated process, advertisers have to personally negotiate where their ads will run alongside with and manual insertions are done. This automated advertising method speeds up and scales the ad buying and selling process in a way that humans can’t achieve manually.
In addition to ads running within or alongside videos, programmatic ads also include Google Pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising, which is powered by algorithms, to serve highly targeted ads at audiences.
YouTube Programmatic Advertising Fallout
n February of this year, The Times ran a story that revealed that brands unwittingly fund extremists groups through online ads.
The Times report showed that on YouTube, the online advertisement for the Mercedes E-Class saloon was shown alongside a pro-Isis video that had more than 115,000 views. A video owner earns an average of $7.60 for every 1,000 views and YouTube takes a 45% cut of the earning.
The online ad for Sandals Resorts, the luxury holiday operator, was shown alongside a video promoting al-Shabaab, the East African jihadist group affiliated to al- Qaeda. Ads for Halifax, Churchill Retirement, Honda, Victoria & Albert museum, Thomson Reuters, University of Liverpool and Waitrose also appeared alongside extremist videos posted on YouTube.
As soon as Google, the owner of YouTube, was informed by The Times, the tech giant took down some of the videos. AT&T and Verizon were some the companies that suspended their ads on YouTube over the placement of their ads in extremist videos.
In an interview with Recode, Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, said that the company’s YouTube ad controversy where brands found that some of their ads have run alongside videos promoting terror was overblown.
“If you look at it from an advertiser perspective, the error rates we’re talking about – I’m careful in saying this, because I don’t want to take away from the importance of the problem and that we need to get it right – but the numbers are tiny, tiny,” Schindler said.
Even as the Google’s chief business officer said that the problem is “tiny”, the company, he said, is heeding the call to remedy the issue.
"We know advertisers don't want their ads next to content that doesn’t align with their values,” Schindler wrote in a blog post published on March 21, 2017. “So starting today, we’re taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content. This includes removing ads more effectively from content that is attacking or harassing people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories. This change will enable us to take action, where appropriate, on a larger set of ads and sites.”
How to Ensure Your Brand Safety in Programmatic Advertising
We have seen the negative side of automated advertising method as shown in the YouTube fallout. But we can’t deny the fact that programmatic advertising can speed up and scale the ad buying and selling process in a way that humans can’t achieve manually.
Advertising channels like Google search, YouTube and Facebook have the responsibility to ensure that ads don’t run within or alongside fake news, offensive, derogatory, hateful, inappropriate and non-contextual media content.
In today’s digital world, there’s no going back to the bygone days of manual advertising. The online world is simply too big to ignore. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN specialized agency for information and communication technology, projected that mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to reach 4.3 billion globally by the end of 2017.
Drawing customers to your business through programmatic advertising entails added responsibilities on your side. These include choosing the right digital marketing service. The right digital marketing service will ensure that your business ads don’t run within or alongside objectionable digital content. It can better manage and control ad placements, as well as track and monitor digital advertising placements.
Contact us today if you want to ensure the safety of your brand in a programmatic environment.
Here is how to Increase Web Traffic through Social Media
Worried that your organization’s website isn’t getting enough traffic? The answer may lie in social media platforms.
According to a report released in the 1st quarter of 2016 by analytics firm Parse.ly, social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit, StumbleUpon – drove more traffic to news sites (46%) than search engines (40%).
An earlier report from content marketing hubShareaholic showed that the top 8 social networks (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube) drove 31.24% of the overall traffic to sites for the 4th quarter of 2014, up from 22.71% for the same period in the previous year.
Facebook is the dominant source of social media traffic.
According to Parse.ly, for the 1st quarter of 2016, the lion’s share of the traffic to news sites from social media came from Facebook (41.4%) and bulk of the traffic from search engines came from Google (39.5%).
According to Shareaholic, for the 4th quarter of 2014, one-fourth or 24.63% of the social referrals to sites around the web came from Facebook. Shareaholic, which tracked Facebook’s traffic referrals from 2011 to 2014, noticed a 277.26% increase, from only 6.53% in 2011. Behind Facebook, Pinterest came in as the 2nd top social media referral site (5.06%), followed by Twitter (0.82), StumbleUpon (0.50%), Reddit (0.15%), Google+ (0.04%), LinkedIn (0.03%) and YouTube (0.01%).
Unlike Parse.ly which focused on news websites traffic, Shareaholic sourced its data from diverse sites, including food, sports, parenting, tech, design, marketing, fashion and beauty, religion and general news.
According to nonprofit medical practice and medical research group Mayo Clinic, its top social media referral site to mayoclinic.org in the first quarter of 2017 was Facebook which accounted for 78% of the traffic from social media, followed by Twitter (7%) and StumbleUpon (6%). Mayo Clinic added that in the 1st quarter of 2017, Facebook was also its dominant social media referrer for appointment requests.
Penetration Rate of Social Media, Facebook in Canada
According to statistics portal Statista, as of January 2017, nearly 37% of the world’s population had an account on at least one of the social networks. In North America, approximately 66% has at least one social media account. In Canada, over 20 million people are expected to have a social media account by 2018, Statista projected.
According to Statista, global internet users spend an average of 118 minutes each day surfing social networks, while Canadians spend 107 minutes each day accessing social media from any device.
As with the rest of the world, tech giant Facebook is the most popular in Canada in terms of penetration, with three quarters of Canadians having an active account on this platform. Facebook is also the most visited social network via mobile, Pinterest taking the 2nd spot and Twitter taking the 3rd spot.
User base of Twitter in Canada is projected by Statista to grow from over 3.3 million in 2012 to 7.6 million users in 2020. The professional platform LinkedIn has the highest penetration rate, according to Statista, among residents in Alberta and British Columbia.
Given that Facebook has 1.32 billion daily active users on average and 2.01 billion monthly active users as of June 30, 2017, and given Facebook’s value as the dominant source of social media traffic, here are some strategies that you can use to drive Facebook traffic to your organization’s website:
1. Take Advantage of Facebook Links
In the About page, photo and video descriptions, comments (where relevant), make sure to include links back to your organization’s website.
It’s essential to include links back to your organization’s website in all social media pages of your organization, including Facebook, as social media sites are favored and have high ranking in search engines, including Google. If your organization hasn’t done much to the website, for instance, failing to regularly update the site via blog posts, and your organization has other social media pages, when people search your organization via search engines, links to these social pages show up higher than your website.
2. Provide Brief Quote or Excerpt from Blog Post
When posting links to blog posts, provide a brief quote or excerpt to give the readers a heads up what to expect when clicking on the link. Pick a portion of the blog post that best describes the topic. Use this as a way to entice the reader to click on the link to the blog post.
3. Post Frequently
According to Facebook, based on an experiment that it conducted with 29 media partners, increasing post volume by an average of 45% over a week resulted in a 76% increase in outbound clicks, 47% increase in fans and 10% increase in likes per post.
4. Upload Videos with a Call-to-Action
According to Facebook, more than 4 billion video views happen on Facebook each day. Post videos on your organization’s Facebook page. Be sure to add a call to action to your video to drive viewers to your organization’s website.
5. Use Facebook Ads
It’s a good practice to supplement your Facebook strategies with Facebook ads. Over the past few years, there has been a drop in “organic” or non-paid Facebook post reach. Your organization has no control on who views your Facebook posts. More often, this social media platform gives priority to posts that organizations paid for to be promoted. As it’s becoming increasingly hard for non-paid posts to get the needed exposure, the better option is to make use of the Facebook ads.
The focus must be driving traffic from social media platforms, not to social media platforms like Facebook. Remember that the role of your organization’s social media pages is only to supplement your organization’s site. This site is your very own – your organization has complete control over it. Your organization’s social media pages, on the hand, are only “rented”. Driving traffic to your organization’s site, not to social media pages ensures that if one of these social media platforms were to change its business model today or close its business, your organization still has a venue to engage with your audience.
When you need help generating more targeted web traffic, connect with us and we will be more than happy to help.
How Online Reputation Can Prevent Social Bias
Diversity is valued in today’s modern society. Social bias, however, comes out naturally for some people. A new study from Stanford University (PDF) shows that online reputation can offset this social bias.
Stanford University Study
To test for evidence of bias, the Stanford University researchers created an experiment-specific online platform. For this new platform, the researchers recruited nearly 9,000 users of Airbnb – an online platform that enables people to rent-out their homes or apartments – to play a behavioral game where participants have to invest a certain amount for various individuals based on mock profiles. The amount of investment for a certain individual serves as a measure of trust.
The researchers divided the nearly 9,000 participants into two groups. Group 1 participants were shown mock profiles of individuals with similar and different demographic than their own. Group 2 participants were shown profiles of individuals with similar and different demographic and added information about reputation – conveyed by star ratings and number of reviews.
Results showed that Group 1 participants invested greatly in people with similar demographic background. The more similar the demographic background, the more the participant invested or trusted such individuals, succumbing to social bias. Participants in Group 2, on the other hand, invested significantly in individuals with better reputations even though these individuals have completely different demographic background than their own.
The behavioral game created by Stanford University researchers revealed that profiles’ reputation prevented humankind’s affinity for favoring people similar to themselves.
The researchers weigh the results of the behavioral game with 1 million actual interactions between hosts and guests on the Airbnb online platform. The Stanford University researchers found that Airbnb hosts with better reputations attracted more demographically diverse guests.
"Our findings show that reputation systems can significantly increase the trust between dissimilar users and that risk aversion has an inverse relationship with trust given high reputation," the researchers wrote.
Homophily: Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Homophily – the penchant for favoring those similar to ourselves – was first coined by researchers Lazarsfeld and Merton in the 1950s.
Homophily, however, wasn’t invented in the 50s. Plato observed in Phaedrus that “similarity begets friendship”, while Aristotle in Rhetoric and Nichomachean Ethics noted that people “love those who are like themselves”. The proverbial expression “birds of a feather flock together” unmistakably expresses the full concept of homophily.
There’s a wealth of literature that shows that homophily is evident in relationships that range from the closest ties of marriage, friendship, career support at work to mere initial contact or appearing with people in a public place.
Relevance to Your Business
The findings in the Stanford study and the idea of “birds of a feather flock together” can be applied in your business in the following ways:
1. Build Better Online Reputation to Build Trust
In traditional e-commerce business, social bias isn’t a factor that drives selection as transactions are relatively anonymous.
If you’re working in sharing economy such as working as an Airbnb host or working in the health care sector where there are more personal interactions, there’s that danger of social bias.
According to the Stanford researchers “social biases figure as major hurdles to the growth” in services with more personal interactions “as they influence users’ perceptions of trust and risk”.
As shown in the Stanford study results, online reputation can counteract the natural behavioral tendencies that may lead to social biases. It’s, therefore, important to build a better online reputation through impressive star ratings to eradicate cultural and social boundaries and to attract new customers.
“The fundamental question we wanted to answer is whether technology [review or rating platforms] can be used to influence people’s perception of trust,” lead author of the Stanford University study Bruno Abrahao told the Stanford News. “These platforms can engineer tools that have great influence in how people perceive each other and can make markets fairer, especially to users from underrepresented minorities.”
If you notice homogeneity – same demographic – among your current clientele and you want to open your business to those with different sociodemographic background, it pays to build a better online reputation via impressive star ratings on credible online review platforms.
2. Use the Concept of “Birds of a Feather Flock Together” to Your Advantage
The principle of homophily or the concept of “birds of a feather flock together” is double-edged. On one hand, it’s positive; on the other hand, it’s negative.
“Homophily limits people’s social worlds in a way that has powerful implications for the information they receive, the attitudes they form, and the interactions they experience,” researchers McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook wrote in the study "Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social" (PDF). They added, “Homophily in race and ethnicity creates the strongest divides in our personal environments, with age, religion, education, occupation, and gender following in roughly
On the flip side, you can use the idea of “birds of a feather flock together” to improve your brand. It’s a matter finding similarities that don’t reinforce social biases. You can use the “birds of a feather flock together” concept, for instance, in getting reputable online reviews.
The study "How Online Reviews Influence Sales" (PDF) by Spiegel Research Center showed that online reviews written by verified clients are perceived as more credible than reviews written by anonymous reviewers.
“The verified buyer badge shows that the reviewer is a real consumer and not someone who was paid to write a review or someone who has an axe to grind against the company,” Spiegel Research Center said.
The trust placed by would-be clients in verified clients shows how the concept of “birds of a feather flock together” works, that is, people trust more those who have similar experience.
It’s important, therefore, to build a good number of impressive star ratings, not just in random online review platforms but in credible online review platforms – this means platforms where most of the reviewers, if not all of the reviewers, are verified clients who paid for the product or service.
Connect with us today to see how we can help your business grow by applying best industry practices.
Why Business Listing Accuracy is Important
Business Name. Address. Phone number. These 3 – jointly called as “NAP” – are the holy trinity of information.
Your business name, address and phone number are of utmost importance for those who may plan to buy from your physical store or those who may want to contact your office prior to visiting your store.
An example of a business listing or business directory is Google My Business – a free business listing or directory offered by Google. This business directory integrates 3 Google products: Google Maps, Google Search and Google +. It allows consumers to find your business or organization’s contact details. It also shows your customers how to get to your store or office with its travel directions for a variety of transportation modes.
Benefits of Accurate Business Listings
Based on the Google-Oxera study (PDF), accurate business listings result in the following:
1. It can help your organization’s online reputation.
The Google-Oxera study showed that businesses whose listings are verified, specifically on Google My Business, are twice as likely to be considered “reputable” by consumers.
2. It saves time.
The Google-Oxera study revealed that consumers save 0.74 minutes per record when they see a verified business listing. The study estimates this time-saving consequence to be worth around $9 for each consumer over a year for every type of business they locate using Google.
3. It increases homepage clickthroughs.
The Google-Oxera further found that accurate business listing produces more consumers’ online activity. The study found that accurate business details generate at least 30% increase in homepage clickthroughs.
Prevalence of Inaccurate Basic Business Information
Inaccurate business names, addresses and phone numbers are prevalent on the internet. A Yext survey revealed that 65% of large businesses in the UK have incorrect addresses listed online. This problem isn’t limited to large businesses, as 67% of smaller businesses have incorrect addresses listed online. The inaccurate information doesn't stop there, according to Yext, as 33% of large organizations in the UK list incorrect phone numbers, and 61% of small businesses face the same problem.
A Mediative and Placeable (PDF) report showed that 80% of Canada's top retailers have inconsistent, inaccurate or missing basic business information online.
Negative Effects of Inaccurate Business Listings
1. Inaccurate business listings can drive away customers and contacts.
A Google and Ipsos MORI survey (PDF) revealed that 4 in 5 smartphone and computer/tablet users conduct local searches on search engines, specifically about local store address, directions to the local store and business hours.
The survey further revealed that 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within 24 hours, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same. Despite the growth of online retail, therefore, the truth remains that offline spending on products and services aren’t losing ground.
Imagine a customer driving all the way to your supposed store address, only to find a notice that you’ve moved to a new address or said customer simply can’t locate your store as it’s the wrong address. Or picture a customer, who after finding your organization’s phone number online, contacts you with this number and said customer can’t contact your company because that number is an old one or the number is simply wrong.
The responses for these two scenarios are immediate: inaccurate address and phone number drive away would-be customers and contacts. Even your existing customers will turn their backs against your business if you don’t update your new address or phone number.
2. Inaccurate business listings result in financial losses.
According to the Mediative and Placeable report, if 5% or 100 branches of a 2,000-branch home improvement store with $57 average daily ticket, 5,000 local searches a month and a 1% click-through rate (CTR) have inaccurate phone numbers, it could mean an annual loss in revenue of $1.6M from customers who opt to shop elsewhere.
3. Inaccurate business listings can do damage to your business’ search engine optimization (SEO).
According to Moz’ 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors, the following inaccurate and missing business data negatively impacts your business’ SEO:
If search engines notice that your organization has incorrect and conflicting business addresses and phone numbers, your organization’s website is less likely to rank high on search results. The reason for this demotion is that search engines are simply trying to protect their reputation as well. If their search results show incorrect and misleading information, their customers would similarly leave them.
"Inadequate syndication of location data across the third party ecosystem leads to poor placement in search engine results and the loss of online site visits," the Mediative and Placeable report said.
The following factors are responsible for basic business data inaccuracies:
1. Change in Location and Phone Number
Inaccuracies of location and phone number can stem from a recent transfer to a new address or a change of phone number.
2. Typo Error
Many inaccurate business addresses and phone numbers are the results of typo error or mistakes in typing the words or numbers.
3. Substantial Number of Business Addresses and Phone Numbers
Specifically for large organizations – those with hundreds and even thousands of branches, manually ensuring that addresses and phone numbers are accurate can be burdensome.
4. Substantial Number of Business Listings
In today’s digital economy, your business name, address and phone number don’t appear on one site alone. Depending on your location and type of business, your organization may have to deal with hundreds of business listings within niche based categories. New sites could also pop-up anytime and existing sites could get your business name, address and phone number from several sources.
5. Lack of Time to Claim and Regularly Update Business Listings
Claiming a business listing like Google My Business takes time. Aside from Google My Business, there are other business listings that are equally as important like Bing Local, Facebook, Apple Maps and TripAdvisor.
Connect with us today and we will show a simple, automated way to keep your listings up-to-date, attract new customer, and win against competition.
How to Remove Your Sensitive Personal Information from Search Engine
There are things in our past that we would rather forget like an ugly divorce proceeding and personal bankruptcy.
Canadians were taunted about their ugly past when the Romanian website Globe24h.com republished the Canadian court and tribunal decisions that are also available on Canadian legal website CanLII.org.
Unlike CanLII – a non-profit organization created and funded by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada – which doesn’t index its web content for search engines, Globe24h allows search engines to find its web content. Because of the indexing of the Globe24h content, personal information like full names, children’s names and other sensitive data of a number of Canadians appeared prominently on search engine results.
Forty-nine Canadians complained against Globe24h from October 2013 to April 2016 before the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. While the complainants understood that the court and tribunal decisions would be published somewhere for record purposes and to aid the courts and legal profession in understanding the development and application of the law, they didn’t understand why these decisions would appear as a result of a casual search on a search engine like Google.
In January this year, the Federal Court of Canada ordered the owner of Globe24h to remove all Canadian court and tribunal decisions containing personal information and “take the necessary steps to remove these decisions from search engines caches”.
The court ruled that the claim “to make law accessible for free on the Internet” by the owner of Globe24h can’t be considered journalistic as the owner “adds no value to the publication by way of commentary, additional information or analysis”. Globe24h has ceased operation since then.
Right to be Forgotten
Google.com was registered on September 15, 1997. In its close to 20 years of existence, it has become the world’s most popular search engine. Seeing your tense divorce proceeding, with personal details, including the names and birth dates of your children on search engine results is understandably a disturbing experience.
In 2010, a Spanish national filed a complaint against a Spanish newspaper, Google Spain and Google, Inc., asking the three entities to remove the data relating to his personal bankruptcy case as this had been fully resolved for a number of years and, therefore, any reference to the case was entirely irrelevant.
On May 13, 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (PDF) ruled in a landmark decision popularly called “Right to be Forgotten” that citizens in EU countries have the right to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them. The court clarified that the right to be forgotten isn’t absolute and should be balanced against other fundamental rights, including freedom of expression.
The EU Court’s decision leaves the responsibility to search engines to assess case by case the sensitivity of the data in question to the individual's private life and the interest of the public to access such information.
The right to be forgotten is accurately defined as "a right to be delisted from search results” by Kent Walker, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Google in a blog post dated May 19, 2016. According to Walker, across Europe, Google reviewed nearly 1.5 million webpages and delisted around 40%.
Another case is pending before the Court of Justice of the European Union, this time, asking Google not only to delist certain webpages from Google’s search engine results in one particular country but also in every country in the world. Google opposes the worldwide application of the right to be forgotten.
"For hundreds of years, it has been an accepted rule of law that one country should not have the right to impose its rules on the citizens of other countries,” Walker said. “As a company that operates globally, we work hard to respect these differences.”
While the question of whether the right to be forgotten should be applied worldwide with regards to requests from EU citizens is still pending before the EU Court, the Supreme Court of Canada already ruled on the question of worldwide delisting of webpages from search results.
In a decision dated June 28, 2017, the majority of the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada ordered Google to globally de-index websites of the company named only as “D”. The case arises from the patent dispute between D and another company named “E”. D and its representatives have ignored all previous court orders made against them, left Canada and operate their business in unknown locations.
“D is only able to survive – at the expense of E’s survival – on Google’s search engine which directs potential customers to D’s websites,” Justice Abella, writing for the majority of the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, said. “This makes Google the determinative player in allowing the harm to occur.”
In their dissenting opinion, Justices Côté and Rowe said that the order against Google to de-list the websites of D is rendered ineffective as D launches new websites to replace de-listed ones. "Courts should avoid granting injunctions that require such cumbersome court-supervised updating,” Justices Côté and Rowe said.
Canadian citizens can request Google to remove sensitive information from its search engine results. As a rule, the search engine giant will remove child sexual abuse imagery. It’ll also remove content in response to valid legal requests such as copyright notifications.
On a case-to-case basis, according to Google, it may remove personal information after asking the following questions:
Google also recommends contacting the website owner. “Even if Google deletes the site or image from our search results, the webpage still exists and can be found through the URL to the site, social media sharing, or other search engines,” the search engine giant said.
The company added that it usually doesn’t remove content that can be found on official government websites as the data is already publicly available.
Online Reviews: Digital Era’s New Social Proof
Major brands have used the “crowd” as a marketing pull. In 1962, record label company RCA renamed Elvis Presley's ninth album “Elvis' Gold Records, Volume 2” to “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong”. In 1955, Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald's franchise with the sign “We have sold over 1 million”.
Social Proof Concept
“The principle of social proof states that one important means that people use to decide what to believe or how to act in a situation is to look at what other people are believing or doing there,” said Robert Cialdini in his work “Influence: Science and Practice”.
There's a wealth of evidence that shows people mimicking others in an unconscious way. You may not notice, for instance, you’ve acquired the speech inflections or idiosyncratic verbal expressions of your friend. If you see a large number of people staring at the sky, you're likely to do the same. Or you may not notice crossing your arms while talking to a person who also crosses his or her arms while talking to you.
“Powerful imitative effects have been found among both children and adults and in such diverse activities as purchase decisions, charity donations, and phobia remission,” Cialdini said. Social proof, he said, is most persuasive in these two conditions:
When a person is undecided or when the circumstance is unclear, such person is likely to mimic the action of others and to assume that such action as appropriate. According to Cialdini, a crowd is unlikely to help a person – even if that person genuinely is in need of help – when they perceive that the need for emergency aid is unclear.
A person is more likely to mimic the action of others with the same background. A 1968 study found that New York residents were more likely to return a lost wallet after learning that another New Yorker had previously tried to do so. The 1968 study also found that knowledge that another person – a foreigner – tried to return the wallet, had no effect on the New Yorkers’ decision.
Social Proof in the Digital Era
In today’s digital era, many people rely on online reviews as their social proof. A 2015 BrightLocal study found that 92% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses.
Google reviews are examples of online reviews. “Reviews on Google provide valuable information about your business to both you and your customers. Business reviews appear next to your listing in Maps and Search, and can help your business stand out on Google,” the search engine giant said.
As the new social proof, online reviews work best under the following conditions:
1. Product Uncertainty
Online reviews are persuasive for online consumers as they are more likely to be uncertain about the product quality compared to offline consumers. According to the study “User reviews and uncertainty assessment: A two stage model of consumers' willingness-to-pay in online markets”, an offline customer, for instance, can assess and verify the product quality in the seller’s store or physical settings. An online customer, on the other hand, has limited information and must actively search online to check the product quality
Implication to Your Company:
If your company has a limited budget to market your product in physical settings or other online platforms, online reviews can boost your company’s online visibility and ease the uncertainty that clouds the minds of your would-be customers.
2. Seller Uncertainty
The “User reviews and uncertainty assessment” study added that the uncertainty faced by online customers isn’t limited to the product alone. “While purchase uncertainty in offline markets is primarily in product alone, purchase uncertainty in online markets is related to both products and sellers,” the study noted. “As such, consumers not only evaluate various products in a category to assess product uncertainty as they do in offline markets, but also evaluate different sellers to mitigate seller uncertainty which they do not in offline markets.”
Implication to Your Company:
If your company is new or not well-known due lack of marketing efforts and funds, online reviews are your organization’s chance of being known to the public.
3. Affinity to Online Reviewers
A study by Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center and PowerReviews (PDF) found that reviews from verified customers – those who purchased the product – are perceived as more credible and have a greater impact on sales.
The Spiegel Digital and PowerReviews study analyzed 65,000 reviews from verified buyers and 57,000 reviews from anonymous consumers for about 13,500 unique products from different categories, including health, beauty, home, garden and electronics.
The study found that purchase likelihood increases by 15% when consumers are exposed to online reviews written by verified buyers as opposed to anonymous reviewers. “This suggests that reviews written by those with direct experience using a product are considered more credible and trustworthy,” researchers from Spiegel Digital and PowerReviews said.
Implication to Your Company:
As online reviews from verified customers are perceived as more credible than anonymous reviewers, it makes sense to encourage your past customers to provide online reviews for your products or services offered by your organization.
4. High Number of Reviewers
The study “Online Customer Reviews of Hotels: As Participation Increases, Better Evaluation Is Obtained”, which analyzed online reviews of 16,680 hotels in 249 tourist areas; found that early reviews of a business tend to be slightly negative. As the number of reviews increases, the study found that positive reviews mitigate the effects of negative reviews, as positive comments are more common than negative reviews.
Implication to Your Company:
According to the “Online Customer Reviews of Hotels” study, “Whether or not hotels actively respond to negative reviews, one implication of this study is that hoteliers should try to increase the number of reviews they receive to balance the positive and negative representations of their property (in addition to investigating and correcting the causes of negative comments).”
It’s important, therefore, for your organization to provide your past customers easy access to customer review sites to mitigate negative reviews.
We offer an easy to use online review platform that virtually runs on autopilot. Better yet, we can help you manage online reviews as we have for our happy customers. Connect with us today to learn more, and solidify your online presence.
4 Benefits of Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations
Social Media Evolution
Social Media Evolution
There was a time in history when social media was considered as only useful to a certain demographic. Remember Myspace or Friendster?
Over the years, accessibility and the desire to feel connected with people with similar backgrounds and interests give rise to the growth of tech giants like Facebook, enabling social media to evolve into a platform that appeals to the masses.
According to statistics portal Statista, Facebook – the social media platform founded in 2004 – currently sits as the number one social network with 2.05 billion monthly active users as of August 2017. The statistics portal, meanwhile, reported that the number of Facebook users in Canada reached 18.2 million in 2016. This number is projected to grow to 19.6 million in 2020.
YouTube, the video-sharing platform owned by Google, is the second most popular social networking site with 1.5 billion monthly active users worldwide as of August 2017 according to Statista. Photo-sharing platform Instagram sits at 7th place with 700 million monthly active users as of August 2017; blogging service Tumblr sits at 9th place with 357 million active monthly users and microblogging service Twitter sits at 10th place with 328 million active monthly users.
Nonprofits and charities are the early adopters of social media. The 2010 study conducted by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Eric Mattson of Financial Insite Inc. revealed that charitable organizations in the US outpaced the business world and academia in their social media use. The study showed that 93% of the top US charities have a Facebook profile, 87% have a Twitter presence and 65% have a blog.
The study called “2016 Global NGO Online Technology Report” (PDF) by Public Interest Registry and Nonprofit Tech for Good showed that nonprofits and charities in North America have been the early adopters of social media. As of 2016, according to the study, 97% of nonprofit organizations have a Facebook page; 85% have a Twitter profile; 71% have a LinkedIn profile; 63% have a YouTube account and 46% have an Instagram profile.
The Public Interest Registry and Nonprofit Tech for Good study also found that 34% of nonprofit organizations in North America assign the social media management responsibility to development, program, administrative, and/or executive staff; 33% assign the responsibility to a communications staff person; 27% depend on a full-time or part-time social media manager and 6% depend upon volunteers.
March of Dimes is an example of a nonprofit organization that leverages the use of social media. It has a presence on several social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
Here are 4 benefits of using social media for the nonprofit organization that you run:
1. Venue to Engage Your Organization’s Current Supporters
Social media platforms are good venues to have meaningful conversation with your existing donors, volunteers and members. Start the conversion with them by sharing real stories about successful projects or the people that your organization helped.
The 2013 Millennial Impact Report (PDF) by the Case Foundation found that more than 60% of the millennials (born between the years 1979-1994) like it most when nonprofits share stories about successful projects or the people they help. The study also found that 75% of millennials like, retweet or share content on social media.
Another way to strike a conversation with your current supporters is by posting content that educates the public about the issues your organization addresses. For instance, your organization can share links to studies or news stories that support your organization’s mission. Real and educational stories that your organization posts allow your donors, volunteers and members to converse with your organization as well as converse with each other.
2. Venue to Increase Supporters
Social media is a good venue to grow your organization’s supporters, also known as “friend-raising”.
A study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide (PDF) found that “slacktivists”, popularly referred to as individuals who passively “Like” causes on Facebook but are not truly engaged, “may be more active – and valuable – than previously thought.”
The Georgetown University and Ogilvy study found that individuals who “Like” causes on Facebook are more likely than non-social media promoters to participate in the following key activities:
“The presumption was that these individuals [slacktivists] were replacing more ‘meaningful’ actions with simple clicks and shares,” said Denise Keyes, Senior Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Center for Social Impact Communication. “But what we found is that they’re actually supplementing – not replacing – actions like donating, volunteering and planning events.”
“The key takeaway is that many of the activities that slacktivists are more likely to undertake have this element of influence,” said Jennifer Wayman, Executive Vice President and Director of Social Marketing at Ogilvy Washington. “They are more likely to share what they’re doing with their networks, and there’s real value inherent in these relatively small actions that should not be underestimated.”
3. Venue for Fundraising
It’s inappropriate to bombard your social media supporters with constant postings about your organization’s fundraising campaigns. Occasionally though, it’s proper to do so some fundraising activities via your organization’s social media platforms. It’s important to supplement these online fundraising campaigns with non-online fundraising activities.
4. Venue for Call to Action/Community Organizing
Social media is an effective tool to mobilize individuals to volunteer or take part in an event. On February 12, 2009, the Twestival (Twitter + festival) – serving both as a fundraising activity and call to action – brought together Twitter users to raise money for the global water crisis. The activity was able to raise over $250,000 and brought worldwide public awareness about the global water crisis issue.
SEO vs. PPC: Which Digital Marketing Strategy is Right for Your Organization?
SEO or PPC? Many organizations are conflicted which of these two approaches is the best way to stay competitive and relevant in today’s digital world. Let’s take a look at the nature and pros and cons of each approach.
Competitive Digital World
The world economy is becoming ever more digital. Seventy-five percent of businesses in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (PDF) area in 2015, including 35 countries from North and South America to Europe and Asia-Pacific, have an online presence.
With the majority of businesses now having an online presence, what are the chances that your company’s website will rank high in Google’s search engine results?
The Nature of SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It refers to the measures undertaken to make your website obtain a high-ranking placement in search results.
Data from Statista showed that bulk of the search engine market share in Canada as of April 2017 went to Google (with 61.59% searches), followed by Bing (21.34%), Ask (12.2%), Yahoo (3.05%) and Other (1.83%).
Every search engine has its own criteria on how to rank billions of websites around the world. The criteria for ranking websites are kept secret by companies such as Google, Microsoft (owner of Bing search engine) and Yahoo to prevent the public from manipulating the search engine results. As of today, Google, for instance, has over 200 criteria to rank a website.
For being the most popular search engine, manipulators descended upon Google to sway the search results. The term “blackhat” SEO was born as a result. Google defines blackhat SEO as “Illicit techniques that manipulate search engines to try to rank a site higher”.
The following techniques are considered as blackhat SEO by Google:
The use of blackhat SEO can ruin your site and your online reputation. Once Google determines that you’re using blackhat techniques, it may remove your site from the Google index or demote your site.
Google, meanwhile, allows website owners to optimize their website to rank high in the search giant’s results by using “whitehat” SEO techniques. The search engine giant defines whitehat SEO as legitimate “techniques aim to improve a site by focusing on the visitors instead of on ranking higher”.
Creating high-quality content on your site is considered by Google as whitehat SEO. The use of keywords in your content is encouraged in order for internet users to find what your organization is offering. What’s prohibited is the use of too many keywords, especially those that are out of context.
The Nature of PPC
PPC stands for pay-per-click. It’s an internet marketing tool in which an advertiser pays a certain amount of money every time a user clicks on an online ad. The top search engine companies – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – each have their own PPC program.
Google, being the dominant search engine, is also the dominant PPC program provider. The search giant’s PPC program is called Google AdWords. This PPC program offered by Google lets you show your online ads to the right audience, right location and right time.
The search giant, however, emphasizes that PPC won’t help your SEO ranking. Although PPC in no way affects your site ranking, the tools that come with AdWords will help your organization figure out how to optimize your site organically – without paying for ads.
A case study (PDF) conducted by Google showed that a company that sells a self-help course of a personal nature improved its PPC conversion rate by opting to show its online ad only to customers who might only sign up or purchase when they were in the privacy of their own home – that means outside the regular working hours.
The Google case study showed that while the time change lowered website visits from 9861 to 5652, it increased the client's conversion rate by 3 times, from 1.49% to 4.49%.
Other than ads schedule, other factors that affect PPC conversion rate are improved landing pages, choice of various cities and regions, particular keywords and groups of keywords and device.
SEO and PPC Comparison
Here are 3 key differences between SEO and PPC:
1. Budgetary Requirement
Appearing on top of Google’s search listings as a result of good SEO practices is free. “Search listings are free, and no one can pay for a better ranking,” Google said.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the person you hire to optimize your site is free. And even if you’re doing all the optimizing yourself, there’s still an economic cost to what you’re doing, for instance, creating high-quality content instead of working on other tasks.
PPC, on the other hand, isn’t free. As mentioned, you pay every time a user clicks on your ads. You can control your PPC cost by setting a daily budget – an amount that you're willing to spend each day.
In terms of physical placement in Google’s search results, Google’s PPC ads are placed on top of the organic search results – listings that appear because of their relevance to the search terms and as a result of good SEO work.
So even if you’ve worked hard publishing high-quality content on your site, your competitors’ PPC ads will still appear on top of Google’s search results.
3. Time Element
Good SEO practices can greatly impact the search rankings of your site over time. Many internet users take time to look through the organic listings provided by Google.
The impact of PPC, on the hand, is immediate. This online marketing tool allows you to reach wider audience based on their age, interest, location, language, particular time of the day and device they use. This immediate impact is beneficial to small organizations that can't consistently update their SEO strategies to show latest promotions or seasonal offerings.
How to Protect Your Organization’s Online Reputation from Negative SEO
Competition is healthy. To be on top of the game, some organizations though employ dirty tactics like the negative SEO.
What is Negative SEO
Search engine giant Google allows “white hat” search engine optimization (SEO) – defined as the legitimate ways of optimizing a site for search engines. What Google doesn’t allow are illegitimate ways of optimizing a site for search engines called “black hat” SEO.
Negative SEO falls under black hat SEO. Negative SEO is the act of sabotaging a competitor’s ranking in search engines. A competitor wanting to sabotage your ranking in search engines may build hundreds or thousands of spammy links to your website.
History of Spammy Links and Their Effects on Search Engine Results
A few years back, some organizations were able to successfully rank high on Google’s results by using spammy links. In early February 2011, the New York Times published an article that showed how J. C. Penney, an American department store chain, was able to successfully ranked number one on Google’s results for close to a dozen keywords by using spammy links.
To understand how J.C. Penney rose to the top of Google’s results, let’s understand how Google at that time ranked websites organically – not including paid advertisements.
In early February 2011, Google used hundreds of criteria for ranking websites in its search engine. These criteria are well-guarded secret by Google to prevent people from manipulating the search engine results. But one criterion used by Google to rank websites at the time was exposed and abused: links from one site to another.
At the time, links – regardless of their origin, whether from low quality sites or high quality sites – were considered by Google as votes of approval, listing sites with high number of links on top of its search engine results.
This happened to J.C. Penney. The New York Times report found that 2,015 pages with keyword “dress” bounced directly to the main page for dresses on JCPenney.com, making the company then the number one on Google’s search result for the keyword “dress”.
While some of these web pages were related to dresses, some weren’t. Sites such as nuclear.engineeringaddict.com; casino-focus.com; and bulgariapropertyportal.com were examples of sites with keyword “dress” that bounced directly to the main page for dresses on JCPenney.com in early February 2011.
Darcie Brossart, spokeswoman for J. C. Penney, told the New York Times, “J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies.”
Few hours after the New York Times’ revelation, Google placed Penney under what it calls “manual action”, demoting the site, for instance, in the keyword “Samsonite carry on luggage” from its number one position to number 71; and in the keyword “living room furniture”, from number one to number 68.
In April 2012, Google rolled out “Penguin” – an update in its search engine criteria, affecting 3.1% of queries in English. The Penguin update, in effect, demoted sites with spammy links.
While the Penguin update halted the practice of organizations from building spammy links to rank higher on Google’s results, this update emboldened some unscrupulous organizations to bring down the search ranking of their competitors by using spammy links.
In spammy links, Google has no way of finding who created the links. What Google does in the 2012 Penguin update was to demote the site which supposedly benefited from the spammy links. Your competitors may link unrelated sites – worst cases are porn sites and other low quality sites – to your site.
In September 2016, Google rolled out an additional update on Penguin, this time, devaluing the link spam instead of demoting the site it is directed at.
Disavow Links Tool
In a blog post dated October 16, 2012, Matt Cutts, former head of the web spam team at Google, said that his team is aware of negative SEO. Cutts’ first recommendation to victims of negative SEO was then to contact the sites that link to your site and ask site owners to get these links taken off the public.
If the links aren’t taken down despite your request, Cutts’ then recommended the use of Google’s Disavow Links tool. “In general, Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking,” Cutts’ said. “However, if you're worried that some backlinks might be affecting your site's reputation, you can use the Disavow Links tool to indicate to Google that those links should be ignored.”
Negative Effects of Spammy Links
Spammy links won’t immediately go away when you use Google’s Disavow Links tool. It takes days and in some cases months for spammy links to disappear from the search engine.
While the spammy links are still in limbo on the internet, these may affect the bounce rate of your website. Bounce happens when a visitor to your website only views one page and then leaves your site. Is a high bounce rate a bad thing? According to Google, bounce rate can either be good or a bad thing.
“If the success of your site depends on users viewing more than one page, then, yes, a high bounce rate is bad,” Google said. “On the other hand, if you have a single-page site like a blog, or offer other types of content for which single-page sessions are expected, then a high bounce rate is perfectly normal.”
Prevention is the Key
In dealing with negative SEO or spammy links, it’s important to be proactive. Use tools that automatically detect spammy links. Contact the site owner if you notice a spammy link. If this request is disregarded, use Google’s Disavow Links tool.
Remember that aside from spammy links, Google has more than 200 criteria as basis for ranking your organization’s website. “The web has significantly changed over the years, but as we said in our original post, webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling websites,” Google said.
You don't have to do this alone if you don't have time or skills to spot and manage negative SEO. Our managed plans include toxic link monitoring and management as a standard feature. Call us today to protect your SEO.
Negative Reviews: Should Businesses Fear Them or Not?
In today’s digital world, consumers can easily sing high praises to your business or vent their frustrations over your products or services online.
Near Perfect or Perfect Rating is “Too Good to Be True”
High praises or 5-star reviews are instinctively embraced by businesses. Negative reviews, on the other hand, are instinctively feared. But should bad reviews be avoided altogether?
A new study from Spiegel Research Center found that, across product categories, purchase likelihood usually peaks at review ratings in the 4.0 to 4.7 range and starts to dip as review ratings approach 5. Put it in another way, the new study suggested that products with an average rating in the 4.7 to 5.0 range are less likely to be sold than those in the 4.0 to 4.7 range.
“This suggests that shoppers see ratings at the far end of the spectrum as ‘too good to be true,’” Spiegel Research Center said. “Readers are skeptical of reviews that are too positive and, in many cases, a negative online review is seen as more credible.”
Another study from the Northwestern University arrived at the same conclusion as the Spiegel Research Center study that a near perfect or perfect rating is “too good to be true”. The Northwestern University research results showed that the probability of purchase increases with rating to about 4.2 to 4.5 stars and starts to drop as the star rating approaches a perfect 5.
The two studies from Spiegel Research Center and Northwestern University showed that a small proportion of negative reviews can make a product or service more appealing to would-be consumers.
The Inevitability of Negative Reviews
An earlier PowerReviews research found that 82% of buyers seek out negative reviews; and among buyers under 45-year-olds, this number jumps to 86%.
“Shoppers are smart: they know that every item can’t be the newest, fastest, cheapest and highest quality,” PowerReviews study said. “As a result, they question products that claim to be all of the above.”
The PowerReviews study said negative reviews help businesses establish brand credibility and trust. Would-be buyers are skeptical about the lack of negative reviews, the study said.
Google's retail industry director John McAteer told the Economist that a few bad reviews are worth having. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” he said.
The Spiegel Research Center study, meanwhile, stressed that business should embrace negative reviews. Showing negative reviews on your site, Spiegel Research Center study said, helps build credibility with customers. “While it may seem counterintuitive, negative reviews can have a positive impact because they establish credibility and authenticity,” the researcher center said.
The research center recommended that instead of trying to eliminate negative reviews, it’s important to monitor them and respond to them.
Negative Reviews as Baseline for Worst-Case Scenario
According to PowerReviews, negative reviews offer a baseline for the worst-case scenario when buying a product or availing a service of a company. For instance, if the negative reviews center on the complicated way in which the product can be assembled and the other features of the product are given good reviews, a would-be buyer may proceed with the purchase if he or she doesn’t care about complicated assembly.
Other Factors that Affect Online Sales
In addition to the presence of negative reviews, the following factors affect online sales:
1. Price of the Product
The Spiegel Research Center study showed that online reviews have a greater conversion rate for expensive products. The study showed that when reviews are displayed for a higher-priced product, the conversion rate increases by 380%. For lower-priced product, on the other hand, the conversion rate increases by 190%.
2. Degree of Risk Involved in the Purchase
A product can be considered as “risky” based on its price. Aside from price, a product can be considered as risky based on its effects on health and safety. The Spiegel Research Center study showed that online reviews have a greater conversion impact for risky items.
3. Number of Reviews
The Northwestern University study called “Too good to be true: the role of online reviews’ features in probability to buy” published in the International Journal of Advertising in June 2016 found that “although the majority of extant research suggests that larger numbers of reviews bring more positive outcomes, we show that it is not always the case.”
“It’s easy to assume that having more and more reviews will continue to help drive sales,” said Spiegel Research Center in the study called “How Online Reviews Influence Sales” published on its site in June 2017. “Our research found that more reviews help, but only to a point – and that point is much lower than many might assume.”
Spiegel Research Center’s June 2017 report showed that nearly all of the increase in purchase likelihood happens within the first 10 reviews, and the first five reviews propel the majority of this increase.
4. Number of Verified Reviewers
According to PowerReviews, consumers take into consideration, not only the review but also the reviewer. “If the author of a negative review seems unlike the reader, the reader may discount the authenticity of the review for them personally,” PowerReviews said.
This is evident in the way consumers view the reviews left by verified and non-verified reviewers. In the Spiegel Research Center, verified reviewer is defined as a consumer whose purchase can be confirmed online, while anonymous reviewer is defined as someone whose purchase can’t be confirmed.
The Spiegel Research Center study showed that purchase likelihood rises by 15% when consumers read reviews written by verified buyers as opposed to anonymous reviewers. This shows that reviews written by people who have direct experience using a product or service are more trustworthy and credible, compared to anonymous reviewers who may be paid to write reviews or from those who have ulterior motives against the company.
According to the research center, verified customers give an average 4.34-star rating, while anonymous reviewers give an average 3.89-star rating. This shows that having more reviews from verified customers can help boost the value of the reviews in a number of ways.
Monitoring and responding to online reviews can is a time consuming and a tedious task. Connect with us today to learn how we can fully automate the process of getting verified customer reviews, monitor and respond to both negative and positive reviews to boost your brand, and increase sales.
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